Do the math, and you’ll find that a million seconds is about 12 days. And a billion seconds? That’s about 32 years.

Aiyana Green & Steven Strogatz

I found this quotation from a New York Times essay more about economics than math—Who’s Afraid of Big Numbers? In the past, I’ve lazily wondered what a million dollars in pennies would weigh or could I fit a million dollars in one-dollar bills in my garage. With recent headlines about federal budgets in the trillions these days, I wanted to expand these absurdly abstract values in an attempt to visualize their scale.

A thousand seconds would be almost 17 minutes, while a trillion seconds would take over 31,000 years. The New York Times also referenced these figures from an opinion piece about the [United States] national debt ceiling, Just How Long Is a Trillion Seconds by Dorothy C. Morrell, back in 1986.

My next referential thought is the infamous film by Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten™ (1977), as well as Josh Worth’s supercool visualization of our solar system. I’m fairly comfortable and confident in knowing how long a foot or an inch is or even six of them. We can thank the International Organization for Standardization, as well as those who use them, for that. But, sixty or six-hundred feet or inches and I am breaking out the calculator or asking a search engine.

Alright, because I’m trying to be a better person and work on my ADHD-fueled procrastinating, I went ahead and calculated that a million pennies would weigh over 551,155 pounds or 250 metric tons. Then I came across this page and deduced one million one-dollar bills would easily fit in the garage.

$100M in $100 notes (or $1M in $1 bills) | Illustration by PageTutor.com

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